cover image Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise

Silence: The Power of Quiet in a World Full of Noise

Thich Nhat Hanh. HarperOne, $24.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-06-222469-9

Each of Nhat Hanh's many books tweaks his simple but profound message%E2%80%94mindfulness%E2%80%94to address an acutely perceived need in contemporary society. Here the famed Vietnamese Zen master and activist (perhaps best known for Peace Is Every Step) addresses physical and mental noise, fostered in particular by dependence on technology%E2%80%94smartphones, email, video games, television, social media. "Our need to be filled up with one thing or another all the time is the collective disease of human beings in our era," he writes. The alternative of cultivating inner silence addresses the hunger for real connection that electronic devices promise but fail to provide. Nhat Hanh's always inspiring wisdom is conveyed skillfully through clear explanations, stories, and practices. However, he includes a startling four pages on a Vietnamese colleague's self-immolation in the 1960s ("I tell this story not because I think you should do something this drastic, but simply to illustrate the power of silent action") that could be troubling for some who pick up this book for encouragement in the face of suffering or despair. The text's wide spacing and distracting pull quotes set in large type bump up the page count of a very short book. Despite these flaws, the book is a compelling presentation of Nhat Hanh's core teaching. (Feb.)